By Kevin McPherson
LITTLE ROCK — After a year-long heavy pursuit of class of 2023 high school prospects that culminated in two letter-of-intent signatures in a recent three-day span, the Arkansas Razorbacks have wrapped up the high school portion of their 2023 signing class endeavors as the next focus will be on the transfer portal and younger high school recruits.
That was the clear sentiment presented by fourth-year head coach Eric Musselman during his Wednesday night press conference that followed the 9th-ranked Razorbacks’ 71-56 home win over South Dakota State at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Just a few days prior, Musselman and his coaching staff earned the official signatures of 2023 5-star prizes Layden Blocker (6-3 guard from Little Rock who signed on Saturday, Nov. 12) and Baye Fall (6-11 forward / center from Denver who signed on Tuesday, Nov. 15).
“We’re done in the high school ranks,” Musselman said. “We’re going to try to have a philosophy to go after high, high level high school players, like the two guys we just got. And then see where the roster is and then go from there. We’re not recruiting anybody else from that class (2023), for sure.”
A day earlier, Musselman expressed his pleasure with landing Fall and Blocker.
“We are excited about signing two of the most unique players in the 2023 class, pairing Baye (Fall) and Layden Blocker,” he said.
Musselman’s philosophy recruiting the transfer portal has always been to cast a wide net initially while zeroing in on a few desired players. This is almost exclusively an end-of-season / sprint-in-the-spring to balance out the haul of high school signees.
In four previous recruiting cycles (2019, 2020, 2021, 2022), Musselman has signed and brought in 19 transfers, including current Hogs Trevon Brazile, Ricky Council IV, Jalen Graham, Kamani Johnson, and the Mitchell twins (Makhi and Makhel) plus former Hogs JD Notae (third team All American, All SEC first team, SEC Sixth Man of the Year), Justin Smith, Jalen Tate, Stanley Umude, Au’Diese Toney, Trey Wade, and Jimmy Whitt, Jr., among others.
Striking a balance between experienced college veterans and “high, high level high school players” has proven to be right in the wheelhouse and comfort zone of Musselman, who blended his high-turnover rosters into back-to-back NCAA Tournament Elite Eights and final national Top 10 rankings in ’20-21 and ’21-22.
The current ’22-23 Arkansas roster includes the aforementioned six transfers (of which five were brought in during the most-recent offseason) plus one class of 2020 player who is a junior (Devo Davis) and six true freshmen headlined by 2022 5-star prospects Nick Smith, Jr., Anthony Black, and Jordan Walsh.
That Musselman has resolved to limit the high school part of his 2023 recruiting to Fall and Blocker only is foreshadowing of a spring transfer portal frenzy for the Hogs coaching staff.
You can learn more on Blocker’s signing (article with video interview is linked: https://forums.hogville.net/index.php?topic=748132.0); Fall’s signing (article linked: https://forums.hogville.net/index.php?topic=748133.0 … and radio interview linked: https://signalmedia-od.streamguys1.com/signalmedia/20221115224052-KevinHoopscoopMcPhersonOnDTS11-15-22CourtesyOfHawgville.net.mp3?listeningSessionID=0CD_382_320__cb124b749431ee3e2db6222428825a86b868fdfd); and my analysis with scouting reports on both Blocker and Fall (article linked here: https://forums.hogville.net/index.php?topic=748134.0).
Hog coaches will wait to see which players become available in the college transfer portal in March, April, and through the early summer, but in the meantime they can continue to explore opportunities to pursue high school underclassmen.
Although the Arkansas coaching staff spent a significant amount of time on the road since early September recruiting class of 2024 (and some 2025) prospects while at the same time hosting recruits for unofficial visits, things have slowed down a bit due to the Hogs getting into the start of their season as well as high school prospects doing the same.
Still, there are several 2024 prospects who will continue to garner the attention of Arkansas coaches, including national Top 15 / 5-star K. Annor Boateng (6-6 wing, Little Rock Central, Arkansas Hawks); national Top 35 / 4-star Dallas “Slim” Thomas (6-8 wing, Little Rock Parkview); 5-star guard David Castillo (Bartlesville, Okla.); 5-star wing Trentyn Flowers (Combine Academy in North Carolina); 5-star guard “Dink” Pate (Dallas Pinkston); 5-star guard Tre Johnson (Lake Highlands, Texas); 5-star guard Ian Jackson (Bronx, N.Y.); 5-star wing Isaiah Evans (North Mecklenburg, NC); 5-star guard Jase Richardson (Las Vegas); 5-star wing Isaiah Elohim (Sierra Canyon in Calif.); and 4-star guard Labaron Philon (Mobile, Ala.) among others.
Talented 2025 in-state prospect and national Top 20 / 4-star Terrion Burgess (6-9 wing, Benton, Arkansas Hawks) will also continue to receive considerable recruiting attention from Arkansas.